SPINACH AND RICOTTA RAVIOLI WITH BUTTER AND SAGE
Ravioli di spinaci e ricotta con burro e salvia
Preparation - Challenging if you make your own ravioli.
Ravioli are made in almost all parts of Italy, and only the sauce used with them changes from one area to another. In Bologna they are served with ragu sauce, in Rome with tomato sauce, and in Lombardy with butter and sage. This recipe, from Anna Maria's grandmother's cook Frimina, is long but easier than it looks. The only difficult part is putting the filling in the pasta. Great care has to be taken to seal the ravioli properly so that they don't open when they are cooking. The recipe yields about 120 ravioli.
If you don't have time to make the ravioli from scratch, buy them freshly made at an Italian store and simply make the sauce.
For the pasta:
For the filling:
- 3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling the pasta
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Pinch of coarse salt
For the sauce:
- 1 pound (450 g) fresh spinach or 1 package (10 ounces;285 g) frozen spinach
- 14 ounces (400 g) ricotta, passed through a food mill
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Food processor or mix by hand; pasta machine or ability to roll out dough by hand; ravioli cutter, pasta pot.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 fresh sage leaves or 8 dried ones
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- If using a food processor: Put all the ingredients for the pasta into the processor fitted with the metal blade, and process until the pasta forms a ball. If it does not form a ball, remove and knead for a minute to make the dough hold together.
If preparing by hand: Mound the flour on a marble or wooden surface. Make a well in the center and break the eggs into it; add the oil and salt. Beat the eggs with a fork until well mixed, then begin to incorporate the flour, a little at a time, as the eggs are beaten. Keep the flour mound from falling by supporting it with your hand, occasionally pushing it back into shape. As the mixture thickens, begin to blend in the remaining flour with your hands. When all the flour has been blended into the dough, knead with the heel of your hand until the pasta is smooth and elastic. (This might take as long as 10 minutes.) Place under an inverted bowl for 30 minutes.
- Prepare the filling while the pasta rests. Wash the fresh spinach several times in cold water. Place in a large saucepan and cook with only the water clinging to the leaves and a pinch of salt for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the freshness of the spinach. Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid. (If using frozen spinach, cook without water over moderate heat until done; drain and squeeze dry.) Put the spinach through a food mill or use a food processor, but be careful not to make the puree too fine. With a wooden spoon, mix the spinach with the remaining filling ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Prepare dish towels on which to place the rolled pasta and others to place over it. Attach your pasta machine to a solid table. Have a cup of flour ready for dusting the pasta when necessary, and have at hand, if available, a ravioli cutter 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
- Divide the dough into quarters and roll one at a time, leaving the other quarters under the bowl. Set the rollers at the widest opening and run one quarter of the pasta through. Fold the pasta in thirds and run through several times, always folding in thirds, until the dough is smooth and elastic. This will take about 10 run-throughs. Sprinkle the dough with flour when necessary.
- Move the wheel to the next notch and run the dough through once. Move down to each successive notch, running the dough through at least once until it has been run through the next to last notch. If the pasta strips are too long to handle easily, cut them in half. Place on tea towels and cover with other tea towels. For ravioli the pasta should not be too dry. When half the pasta has been rolled, begin to prepare the ravioli.
- Place a strip of pasta on a lightly floured surface. Take one heaping demitasse spoonful of the filling and place it on the pasta, giving it a rounded half-ball shape. Using the ravioli cutter as a guide, place the filling at even intervals along the strip. Cover with another strip of pasta, pressing down around the filling to eliminate air pockets.
- Begin to cut the ravioli, using the ravioli cutter, a cookie cutter, or even a glass, dipping the edges into flour before cutting. Seal the ravioli. (We use a ravioli cutter that cuts and seals at the same time, but the ravioli may be sealed by pressing all around the edges with the prongs of a fork, if the pasta is not too dry. Otherwise, keep a beaten egg handy for sealing; simply paint the edges and seal.)
- Place the filled ravioli on a tea towel. If they must wait more than 30 minutes, cover with a tea towel and turn occasionally. Do not stack, or even let the ravioli touch each other.
- Repeat with the rest of the pasta. Rework the cuttings with 1/2 teaspoon water in the food processor and roll out as before. If reworking by hand, dampen the hands with water and work a minute or two and roll out again.
- Bring 8 quarts (7 1/2 L) water and 2 tablespoons coarse salt to a boil in a large pasta pot.
- When the water has reached a rolling boil, drop in the ravioli, in two batches, if necessary. Depending on their dryness, they might need 5 minutes or more to cook; if they are freshly made, 1 to 2 minutes will be sufficient. Begin testing after 1 minute, taking care not to overcook.
- While the ravioli are cooking, melt the butter in a skillet with the sage until the butter turns light brown; be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat.
- Drain the ravioli, put into a heated bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Add the hot butter and sage and toss gently, as the ravioli break easily. Serve immediately.
Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition
Jo Bettoja and Anna Maria Cornetto
The Dial Press